Playoffs unofficially underway for teams like Cavs

The Cavs lost to Charlotte 86-80 on Nov. 15.

Ken Blaze

Cleveland Cavaliers (24-38) at Charlotte Bobcats (26-33)

Venue: Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte.

TV: 7 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio (Cavaliers Live pregame starts at 6:30 p.m.)

Projected Starters

CLEVELAND: C Spencer Hawes; PF Tristan Thompson; SF Luol Deng; SG Jarrett Jack; PG Kyrie Irving.

CHARLOTTE: C Al Jefferson; PF Josh McRoberts; SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist; SG Chris Douglas-Roberts; PG Kemba Walker.

Pregame Notes:

— The Cavs may not make the actual playoffs, but for teams like the Cavs and Bobcats, the playoffs have already begun. Twenty games left. Three-and-a-half games out. It’s time.

— Jefferson is going to be a problem. Bobcats coach Steve Clifford has wisely made Jefferson the focus of the offense, and Jefferson has delivered. Nothing against Hawes or Thompson, but I’d feel a lot better about the Cavs’ chances vs. Jefferson (and the Bobcats overall) if Anderson Varejao were playing.

— Walker has also been a Cavs killer in the past. He has struggled a little recently, but he always gets fired up to face Irving. They were selected in the same draft (2011), and while most people seem to forget, Walker sure doesn’t.

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— Like the Cavs did with Hawes, the Bobcats made an underrated trade at the deadline — sending former Cavs point guard Ramon Sessions (and forward JeffAdrien) to the Bucks for guards Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour. The latter two give the Bobcats additional firepower off the bench, and likely improved what was already a pretty decent situation.

— As I wrote yesterday, I think the Bobcats will make the playoffs. They own the No. 7 seed, and while they’re just a half game better than the Hawks (and four ahead of the ninth-seeded Pistons), the Bobcats are clearly an outfit that has its act together. Clifford probably won’t win NBA Coach of the Year honors, but he certainly deserves to be in the running. This is a franchise that won seven of 66 games two years ago and never got a No. 1 pick. The Cavs have had two in four years. They also added Hawes and Deng. So why are they not winning more?

— A column posted on Bleacher Report on Friday addressed the state of the Cavs, and particularly their plans for the future. Right now, no one can be sure about any of it, because we have no clue how the final 20 games will go. The column mentioned the impending free agency of Deng, Hawes and C.J. Miles, and how David Griffin is merely the "acting" general manager for the time being. Bleacher Report writer Greg Swartz also offered a strong opinion on coach Mike Brown.

— "Regardless of if they make the playoffs or not, Brown should be gone," Swartz wrote. "No team that has Irving, Waiters, Deng and Hawes should be ranked 23rd in scoring. Brown’s sorry offense could scare away free agents and make Irving think twice about taking $80 million. He’s got to go."

— Brown and the Cavs can change that type of national perception in the next 20 games. But they had better start now.